Blank Ballots as Protest

By Julian Dierkes

There does seem to be a significant level of frustration among Mongolian voters about the choices presented to them in this election. With allegations about very serious misconduct (if tape recording of Enkhbold discussing price list for positions is true, that is an outrageous, blatant form of corruption that rots the very core of government work and policy! Other allegations also very serious), this frustration may be mounting even more.

If the “dark campaigning” leads to more frustration among voters that might have a number of consequences in the election.

The most obvious is that turnout might drop. For it to drop below the 50% minimum seems unlikely though not impossible. The lowest recorded turnout by aimag in the 2013 presidential election was Dornod with 60.74% for example.

Elsewhere, I have discussed what implications turnout might have generally for the election.

Another option for voters to register their displeasure with the candidates is to submit blank ballots.

I have been trying to figure out what impact blank ballots might have if they are submitted in large numbers.

The relevant paragraphs of the election law (as unofficially translated by the General Election Commission and distributed to election observers) seem to be §99 and §147.

Here is how they appear in the unofficial translation:
Chapter Twelve
Tabulation, Consolidation of Polling Results
Subchapter One
Vote Counting
§99 Invalidation of vote and ballot papers.

§99.1 The following votes shall be deemed spoiled: […]

§99.2 If a voter made no mark on the ballot paper, it shall be deemed to be a vote cast in support of nobody and a valid ballot paper. {This article was amended on May 5, 2016 by law}

Chapter Seventeen
Presidential Election
Subchapter Three
Election Results
§147 Pass a Law Recognizing the President’s Powers

§147.1 The central election authority shall deem the candidate who has obtained a majority of all votes cast in the primary voting elected as the President and submit its decision […] within 10 days after the polling day ends.

§147.2 […]

Subchapter Four
§148 Cancellation of a primary polling and re-election

§148.1 If no presidential candidate obtained the majority vote in the second polling [this must be a mistake, should be “primary”], the central election authority shall deem the primary polling cancelled.

§148.2 If the central election authority deemed the primary polling cancelled due to no presidential candidate obtaining a majority vote, a re-election shall be set and announced within a week after the decision is made.

What Does this Mean?

It seems then that blank ballots are included in the total number of ballots of which a candidate has to have 50%+1 to win in the first round. For the front runner, these blank ballots thus play the same role as votes for other candidates in the determination of the need for a second round.

Voters who are dissatisfied with the choices offered thus have some strategic options.

Submitting a blank ballot will register their protest and will make it harder for a candidate to win in the first round. In the past, the GEC has reported the number of unmarked ballots (2013 presidential). That number was 1.1% nation wide in 2013 with a high of 2.17% in Bayan-Olgi and a low of 0.8% in Ulaanbaatar district Sukhbaatar. Given the mood of frustration, it will be interesting to see what this number of unmarked ballots will be in the coming election, or possibly in a second round.

Submitting a spoiled ballot (i.e. wrong mark on the paper, multiple candidates marked), on the other hand, would not increase the likelihood of a 2nd round, as spoiled votes would not be counted in determining whether a candidate has obtained 50% of the vote.


Thanks to Iveelt Ts for helping me figure out the right paragraphs and their meaning by also comparing the original Mongolian versions.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots
This entry was posted in Elections, JD Democratization, Presidential 2017 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Blank Ballots as Protest

  1. Kit says:

    As you note there appears to be some confusion about 148.1 – I have been told that it does refer to round 2 and by majority it means a 50+1 victory with over 50% turnout. So in theory if this threshold isn’t met then there will be a new election.

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